AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 53. K-12 Astronomy Education and Public Outreach
Poster, Tuesday, January 7, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall AB

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[53.07] Research Experience for Teachers at NRAO-Green Bank: Calibration of Data from the Green Bank Telescope and Classroom Activities in Radio Astronomy

C.H. Johnson (Breck School), R.J. Maddalena (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

The NSF-funded "Research Experience for Teachers" project provides teachers an opportunity to work on a current scientific or engineering research project. This paper will present the results of research conducted with the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) as well as classroom activities that will use GBT data.

In order to determine the accuracy of the calibration of receivers on cm-wave radio telescopes, engineers must periodically determine the equivalent temperature of a receiver's calibration noise diode. The traditional methods utilize hot-cold loads and usually achieve an accuracy of no better than 5%, have a very coarse frequency resolution, and require days of labor. Using observations with the GBT of standard astronomical flux calibrators, we measured the noise diode temperatures for four receivers that cover 1 to 10 GHz. By comparing the detected power from the calibrators to that generated by the noise diodes we were able to determine the temperature of the noise diodes to an accuracy of 1% with very good frequency resolution (1 MHz). The astronomically determined values agree, with few exceptions, to the less accurate values generated by the receiver engineer. In contrast to the methods employed by engineers, the astronomical determinations took only a few hours.

Using data collected from the GBT and the NRAO 140-foot telescope, high-school students at Breck School in Golden Valley, MN will use the Hands-On Universe (HOU) software to analyze fits files containing data from a 100 square-degree region of the Orion Nebula. Instead of always relying on optical images from personal observations or the HOU groups at Lawrence Hall of Science or Yerkes, students can now use radio images. Comparing radio images with those derived at optical wavelengths should prove enlightening for students, many of whom have misconceptions concerning radio astronomy.

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